I’ve loved Michael Keaton since junior high. Before Batman, and before he slept with Courtney Cox, he was mine.
I sat in a theater watching Mr. Mom and about midway through, I started crying. It’s not a sad movie, in fact there’s not a sad part in it. But there was something about watching Michael Keaton on screen that felt like great art. Like truth and beauty, completion. Something special had arrived for me.
I felt it again when I met Bill Blazejowski in Night Shift. Michael Keaton provided quotables for my friend Hilary and I from Coach Barber’s English class until present day. He was an idea man, Chuck. He became a love broker. He explained the word “prostitution.” He had the idea of microwave underwear, that way you could bake a potato, right in your pants. He was delicious.
I didn’t feel it so much in Multiplicity (though he’s supercute in flannel), or The Paper particularly, or Herbie Fully Loaded (I didn’t see it). But I felt it in Birdman. It’s not a perfect movie, but there’s plenty to love. And there’s Keaton, in all of his glorious Keatonian Keatonness.
Birdman is the story of a washed up actor, Riggan Thomson (played by Keaton) who once played an iconic superhero called Birdman. He’s trying stage a comeback with a Broadway play he adapted from Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Everything is riding on this production and things are going wrong in all directions. Externally, a lead actor is terrible and replaced by an unhinged actor (Norton), critics are preparing to condemn, and ticket sales are a concern. Internally, Riggan feels guilt over his failed marriage and shortcomings as a father. He’s tortured by the voice of Birdman. And ultimately, he’s afraid he’s not good enough to pull off a great performance.
It’s fantastically shot and edited. The sound is textured in such a way that makes it like another character. It’s fun to watch Ed Norton and Zach Galifianakis. And Keaton shines. Andrea Riseborough is wonderful as the set-aside girlfriend, Laura. Amy Ryan is fantastic as the ex-wife Sylvia. Emma Stone is very believable as a just-out-of-rehab daughter (someone see if she’s okay!). And when Merrit Wever shows up, she’s great as always.
It’s a great date movie for two smart people. You’ll have a great “I think it meant this…Well, I think it meant that…” conversation over coffee afterward, then you’ll go home, have some wine, watch Scandal off your DVR, then do it.
This film is a great investment in culture and do-it-ativeness. I say it’ll take the “weird film” slot at award season and be this year’s Her. (Even though I didn’t love Her, I’m just saying it was weird and won a lot of awards.) Enjoy Birdman, Kittenhands!